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Consumer Rights Act – will you exercise your new rights?

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There’s less than a week to go until the biggest shake-up of consumer rights law in a generation. But how much will you benefit from the new Consumer Rights Act?

Are you up to speed with your new rights? The new Consumer Rights Act 2015 becomes law on Thursday 1 October 2015 and brings with it a raft of new rights for consumers.

This is a consolidating Act. Which, for those not in the know, means it brings together and replaces three big pieces of consumer legislation:

  • Sale of Goods Act 1979
  • Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999
  • Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982

So what exactly will this mean to the average punter? Let’s take a look at some of the new rights you can look forward to…

30 days to reject

The new Act gives some much-needed clarity on how long you have to return a faulty product hassle free for a full refund. The good news for shoppers is that you’ll have 30 days to make the return for a full refund.

Is that long enough?

Well, it’s an improvement on the soon-to-be-replaced Sale of Goods Act, which offers no specific timeframe – only a ‘reasonable time’, which depends on the circumstances but in practice is usually around three to four weeks.

You can still return a faulty product after the initial 30 days, but the retailer has an opportunity to repair or replace it before you can demand a refund.

Your new digital rights

The new legislation also sets out – for the very first time – bespoke rights for when you purchase digital content. It covers pretty much any digital content you pay for and download or stream – including apps, music, movies, games or eBooks.

There isn’t a 30-day grace period for refunds as with physical products. Instead, if there’s something wrong with your new digital content you’ll have the right to a repair or replacement in the first instance.

And if that repair or replacement doesn’t fix the problem, you can ask for a price reduction which can be up to 100% of the cost.

The retailer (not the developer) will be responsible for compensating you. So if the app you downloaded on Google’s Play Store is broken, your rights for a repair or replacement will lie with Google. The retailer will also be liable if any device or other digital content you own is damaged as a result of the dodgy digital content you’ve downloaded.

It’s not yet clear how this will work in practice, but it could mean that you will be protected by the Consumer Rights Act if an update to a digital device – like an iOS update on iPhone – causes your device to cease to function.

No more unfair contracts?

The Consumer Rights Act also makes make it easier for consumers tochallenge hidden fees and charges. Now the key terms of a contract, including price, may be assessed for fairness unless they are both prominent and transparent. This is an improvement because previously such terms were exempt from a fairness test if they were written in plain language. If a term is unfair then a company won’t be able to enforce it.

There’s a lot more to the new Consumer Rights Act, which you can read all about here. Which of the new rights are you most looking forward to exercising? Do you think the new Act goes far enough or would you like to see other rights and protection included?

Comments
Member

Is it legal (it shouldn’t be legal) for a company that sells goods in a given country (say the UK) over the internet not to supply a returns address in that same country? I’ve just come up against a company that asks you to post any returns to a centre in Poland at your own expense, which in this particular case will cost more than the value of the item I would like to return. Can that be banned? They do allow you to return items to a store but they don’t have a widespread presence in the UK and the nearest store to me is 200 miles away. Nearer than Poland I suppose!

Member

This just shows how consumers have to check the origin of the things they buy on-line and consider their position in the event that they are not what they wanted. The internet has given us easy access to worldwide sourcing but there are considerable additional risks if thing go wrong.

Without knowing more about the reason for the return it is not possible to give advice but if you can return the goods to a retailer why not contact one and see if they will accept a postal return? Processing a refund or replacement could be difficult, however, if the retailer was not involved in the original sale of the goods to you.

If goods are faulty, not as described, or not fit for purpose, and replacement is required, return would be free in the UK but not necessarily to other countries.

Unfortunately the EU’s concept of the “free movement of goods and services” does not apply to postal charges!

Member

The Consumer Rights Act tells the vendor, if the customer simply changes their mind after receiving goods : “You do not have to pay the cost of returning the goods to you, provided you told the consumer before the contract was made that they would be liable for such costs.”

If however the goods do not meet the contract – faulty, not as described etc., then the DRA says, again to the vendor:
“If a consumer rejects goods, you are responsible for all reasonable costs of returning the goods to you unless the goods are being returned to the place that the consumer received them (for example, returning them to the shop in which they were bought). If the costs incurred by the consumer are more than a reasonable amount, you are still responsible for paying the reasonable portion of those costs.”

Member

Surely that guidance can only apply to UK vendors, Malcolm?

Even if the CRA is in line with, or derives from, an EU Directive [and I am not sure that it does] it would not cover trading in other states within the EU. Such an obligation would be an onerous restriction on free trade.

Member

Quite right John, the CRA applies to UK law. However G Lugaro implied they had stores in the UK and I would expect that law should cover them. I’m not clear whether the goods were simply not required any more or were faulty.

Member

Perhaps I did not explain the situation clearly. I’m talking about a Spanish-based multinational (Zara). They have shops in this country (though nowhere near me). I don’t expect them to provide free returns when the goods are not faulty, though many other companies do. But I do expect them to provide a returns address in this country. Poland is the last place I would have expected to have to post things to in the case of them being unsuitable. It means that instead of it costing me £2 or £3 to return the item, it will cost about £12-, which is almost as much as thh item cost!

Member

The Zara website gives information on returns. You have 14 days from receipt to change your mind. They say:
Do I have to pay anything to return my items?
Returns at Zara.com are always free of charge, using our return methods.
How do I return an item?
In store: The easiest way to return an item is by taking it to one of our Zara stores, as long as the store is in the same country in which the purchase was made.
Home collection/Drop off: If you prefer, you can request a home pick-up service or a drop off return. After verifying all the details, we will send you an email to arrange the return. Please log in and follow the steps listed in my account > returns. If you are not registered at Zara.com, please use the link sent to you with your order confirmation e-mail.

Items must be in their original condition and you will be required to present the corresponding receipt. Fragrances must be returned in the original sealed and unopened packaging. Generally, you can only return items that have been sealed for hygiene reasons (e.g. underwear, swimwear or earrings) if the seal or hygiene label is still in place.

Please note that it is always necessary to have received the merchandise prior to requesting a refund.”

Does this not apply to your purchase?

Member

Apparently not. The only paperwork that came with the parcel had a returns address in Poland. So I called their helpline to verify and they explained that they did not collect items. I don’t know what a “drop off return” entails but that wasn’t mentioned. He said the only two options were to return to a store (so drive to London or Manchester from deepest Somerset) or post at my own expense to Poland.
I’ve just checked – I should have specified that it is in fact the Zara Home store – and apparently the conditions are different to the main Zara that sells clothes, although they are part of the same company. I didn’t realise this. It says:

RETURN IN ZARA HOME STORES:
You can return items at any of our Zara Home shops in the country in which you placed the order. Remember to bring the receipt with you to the shop.

You can search for our shops here.

RETURNS THROUGH THE RETURN CENTRE:
Fill in the receipt: check the box of the item that you want to return and indicate the number of items you wish to return in the “quantity” column.

Pack the products along with the receipt.

Send your return to our return centre, paying for any shipping costs yourself.

The address is: ZARA HOME, ARVATO, Panattoni Park V, Ul. Skladowa 3, 62-064 Plewiska (Poland).

DEADLINE:
You will have a maximum of 30 days after receiving the order to make any returns.

GIFTS:
Remember that for gifts, the credit for the return will be made to the same card that paid for the order.

DEFECTIVE PRODUCTS:
Call 080 00 260 091 or send an e-mail to info@zarahome.com.

CDs and Fragrances: must be returned in the original sealed packaging.

I obviously should have checked this but it’s so ludicrous that it never crossed my mind.</